Aloe vera may well be the oldest recorded plant known to humankind. It has been widely recognised around the world to hold medicinal properties. Aloe vera is used extensively to treat not only damaged skin but also fevers and wounds.
The first document we know of making reference to aloe vera is a Sumerian clay tablet, dating back to around BC 2100. Yet, the plant’s antiquity has been further confirmed by the Egyptian papyri to over three and a half thousand years.
Legend has it that acting upon the advice of Aristotle, Alexander the Great besieged and conquered the aloe vera capital of the ancient world. Lying roughly 150 miles east of the Cape Guardafui coast, the Island of Socotra produced a large portion of the Mediterranean’s aloe vera. In doing so, Alexander secured a steady stream of the healing plant to his army.
Jump to the middle of the twentieth century and we still see aloe vera being used by the military. This time, however, the injuries being treated were found on the bodies of Japan’s soldiers; they were caused by the 1944 atomic bomb rather than iron headed spears, swords, javelin or slingshot. It’s no wonder ancient Egyptians called aloe the ‘plant of immortality’.
The meaning of its name comes from the Arabic word ‘alloeh’ denoting to the plant’s ‘bitter’ taste. Yet ironically, there’s nothing alloeh about the estimated $13 billion market value that aloe vera derived products hold.
What is the reason for such widespread cultivation of aloe vera over all other types? All other types are listed as endangered on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
While the queens of Egypt credited aloe as the source of their beauty, anthropologists have recorded present-day hunter-gatherers living in sub-Saharan Africa as using the plant as a natural form of deodorant.
In Ayurveda (India’s ancient science of life and health) aloe vera is considered to be the rejuvenator of all living organisms. According to Ayurvedic practitioners, aloe vera contains 4 flavours: sweet, sour, bitter and astringent. They believe that in addition to aloe, just two other plants (rose petals and guggul) contain these four flavours.
"Ancient Egyptians called aloe vera the 'plant of immortality'."
So, what is aloe vera?
Having been used for more than 6,000 years, aloe vera has unsurprisingly amassed numerous nicknames over its life. These include “shining bitter substance” as well as ‘the plant of immortality’.(3) However, the aloe vera we are familiar with is just one of nearly 600 species in the family. These green succulent plants can be easily distinguished by their triangular, fleshy, serrated leaves.(1)
Aloe produces two substances, one gel, and one latex. The gel is the jelly-like, clear substance found in the inner leaf, while the latex comes from just under the plant’s skin.(3)
Why aloe vera is good for you?
Research has identified 75 potentially active components in aloe vera. These include vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Aloe vera also provides us with 20 human-required amino acids and seven essential amino acids.(3)
There are different healing properties associated with the gel and the latex of the aloe vera plant. The gel has been shown to increase and change the content of collagen, breaking down the strength of scarring tissues. It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the effects of radiation damage to our skin.(3)
The latex of the aloe plant contains anthraquinones, naturally occurring organic compounds that relieve constipation. We often see anthraquinones as the main active constituent in herbs used for laxatives. This is because anthraquinones stimulate our large intestine by increasing water content.(3)(4)
Aloe vera is an alkaline forming food.
Pure aloe vera juice alkalises the body. In other words, it helps to balance overly acidic diets. Our body is designed to keep a proper balance between acid and alkali, which is measured on a pH scale from 0 to 14; 0 being highly acidic, 14 being highly alkaline. The ideal pH level falls between 7.35 and 7.45. In this range, the fluids and tissues in our body can do their work and we can function properly.(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)
Different parts of our body have different pH levels. With a pH of 3.5, our stomach is acidic and must remain that way in order to break the food down. Our blood is almost neutral, this makes sense because we rely on it to transport substances around our body without reacting with them.(10)
There are negative health consequences on either end of the spectrum. If our blood or fluids become too alkaline we can experience alkalosis. Symptoms of this include confusion, lightheadedness, twitching, tingling, and distress. If our body is too acidic, we can experience acidosis (metabolic, respiratory, lactic or kidneys). This is marked by confusion, fatigue, shortness of breath and lethargy.(10) The western diet tends to be meat heavy and lack fruits and vegetables. This type of diet is linked to metabolic acidosis. As a result, it increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, and kidney stones.(11)
Bottom line: Alkaline foods such as aloe vera juice will benefit your body. An alkaline environment lets more oxygen flow into your cells and, in turn, create more energy. Other top alkaline foods include beet greens, spinach, bananas and kiwi.
Aloe vera gel
Most of the bioactive compounds, meaning the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, are contained in the gel of the aloe vera.(12) Aloe vera gel contains powerful nutrients that have been shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.(13) These protective properties become more significant as the aloe vera ages.(14)
Most importantly, aloe vera is a source of acemannan. Acemannan is a polysaccharide; a chemical compound found in the inner leaf gel of the aloe vera plant. It is this component that differentiates aloe vera from the rest of the species in the aloe plant family.
A polysaccharide is a large molecule composed of smaller, simple sugars called monosaccharides.(1) The acemannan polysaccharide is responsible for much of aloe vera’s healing power. For example, studies have shown that acemannan can stimulate certain synthesis which initiates an immune attack on cancerous cells.(3)(15) Acemannan has also been studied for its aid in regulating blood sugar levels.(16)
To benefit from the acemannan polysaccharides, source pure, high-quality aloe vera juice made from the inner leaf of mature aloe vera plant. On average, the Erbology inner leaf aloe vera juice contains over 1600mg of acemannan polysaccharides per litre of juice.
Key aloe vera benefits
To summarise the three key benefits of aloe vera, firstly it is alkalising, meaning it counteracts acid build up in your body and helps produce energy. It can enhance cell protection by boosting your immune responses. And finally, it can also help to soothe and heal damaged skin.
How to enjoy aloe vera?
Aloe vera can be applied topically to the skin. Many of us turn to aloe vera cream or gel when we have a sunburn. Studies have supported the use of aloe vera in accelerating the healing of burns.(17) You can use aloe vera in the form of gel, juice, oils, and powders.
Erbology Organic Aloe Vera Juice
Erbology sources its aloe vera from the south of Spain, one of the best and oldest sources in the world. We use mature plants that are higher in nutrients and extract the juice from the inner leaf. Our aloe vera comes in the 250ml Organic Aloe Vera Juice bottle and the smaller 40ml Organic Aloe Vera Shot, perfect as a daily dose.
At Erbology, we pride ourselves at making small-batch, pure plant-based shots, made from organically grown ingredients. Discover:
Take them straight or mix with water, juice or a smoothie. They’re perfect for traveling.
Delicious recipes with aloe vera juice
Pure aloe vera juice has a slightly bitter taste. We find it refreshing, but many people may not love its distinctive taste. That’s why we recommend adding aloe vera to smoothies, cocktails and even nut milks. We love making our own nut milks. This Aloe vera nut milk recipe is made with activated almonds and sweetened with Medjool dates and fresh strawberries. It’s a perfect way to start your day and a great compliment to our tigernut granola.
If you are a smoothie lover, have a go at this body cleansing Green power smoothie bowl, made with green fruits and vegetables, such as baby spinach, kiwi, and spirulina. Use a shot of aloe vera juice and virgin milk thistle oil. This recipe is excellent for your skin, digestive system and immunity.
Finally, aloe vera doesn’t have to be just for the morning. With its refreshing combination of alkalising citrus and aloe vera, this party piece is sure to turn more than a few heads. Here’s how – Pomegranate, orange & aloe vera cocktail.
Enjoyed reading this article? We love exploring and bringing you nature’s marvels that can help you lead a wholesome and happy life. Learn more about some of the plants that have been cherished and used for centuries.
- Maya Chia, Here I Go Again
In at least one Mayan language, ‘chia’ means ‘strength’, and seems reasonable to conclude that this probably derives from the huge amounts of energy stored within the tiny seed’s body. In the past, the chia seed held a supernatural aura. Today the acclaim and prestige it carries acts as a kind of twenty-first-century version of this. Continue reading
- The incredible benefits of aronia berries
Aronia berries were an important and frequently used food staple for many American first nations and the berry itself was usually eaten raw or dried and mixed with pemmican. The Jicarilla particularly, dried the fruit and pressed them into cakes which they stockpiled for the winter months. The fresh berries could be mashed and made into a jam, or simply left to ferment and used as cherry wine. Every single part of the plant had a use and even its bark and roots can be boiled to produce a form of medicinal tea. Continue reading
- Forget Red Bull, sea buckthorn’s what really gives you wings
Said to be a symbol of dignity and power, legend has it that Pegasus grazed through the day on common forage while holding a special place for the sea buckthorn plant whose tart orange berries sustained arduous flights around the empire and Mount Olympus. It’s obvious that the ancient Greeks were familiar with and amazed by sea buckthorn’s potential. Probably because it played a large part in the diet of Greece’s best racehorses, some scholars have referred to it humorously as ‘the Pegasus plant’. Continue reading
- Amaranth, a symbol of Aztec power and a staple in the modern kitchen
For the people of Mesoamerica, gods and nature where not distinctly separate as they are in Judaeo-Christian faiths. Character traits of nature were projected into the personalities of different gods and conversely, parts of these gods were seen in natural objects found throughout the region. One significant crossover lay in the amaranth plant. So important was this tall plant, with its broad green leaves, that during the festivities of Huitzilopochtli a divine statue was built from its seeds. Continue reading
(1) Dabfm, et al. “Aloe Vera: Explaining What Acemannan Can Do”, Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles, Global Healing Center, Inc, 9 Mar. 2016, www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-is-acemannan/.
(2) “Aloe Vera”, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 Nov. 2016, nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera.
(3) Surjushe, Amar, et al. “ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW”, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Medknow Publications, 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/.
(4) “Anthraquinones” The Naturopathic Herbalist, 13 Apr. 2016, thenaturopathicherbalist.com/plant-constituents/anthraquinones/.
(5) Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline PH Diet Benefits Health?”, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/.
(6) Overall, Best Diets. “Acid Alkaline Diet .” S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, health.usnews.com/best-diet/acid-alkaline-diet.
(7) Reddy, S T, et al. “Effect of Low-Carbohydrate High-Protein Diets on Acid-Base Balance, Stone-Forming Propensity, and Calcium Metabolism.” American Journal of Kidney Diseases: the Official Journal of the National Kidney Foundation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12148098.
(8) Dabfm, et al. “Understanding the Alkaline Diet and Its Benefits”, Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles, Global Healing Center, Inc, 20 Oct. 2016, www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/understanding-the-alkaline-diet-and-its-benefits/#1.
(9) Waugh A, Grant A. Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2007. Print.
(10) Dragani R, “What is the pH of blood?”, Sciencing.com, https://sciencing.com/what-is-the-ph-of-blood-13710228.html.
(11) Adeva, M M, and G Souto. “Diet-Induced Metabolic Acidosis”, Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21481501.
(12) Leech, Joe. “Aloe Vera: Eight Health Benefits.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 28 May 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318591.php.
(13) Nejatzadeh-Barandozi, Fatemeh. “Antibacterial Activities and Antioxidant Capacity of Aloe Vera.” Organic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Springer, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/.
(14) Hu, Y, et al. “Evaluation of Antioxidant Potential of Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller) Extracts.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14664546.
(15) Peng SY, Norman J, Curtin G, Corrier D, McDaniel HR, Busbee D. Decreased mortality of Norman murine sarcoma in mice treated with the immunomodulator, acemannon. Mol Biother. 1991;3:79–87.
(16) Yongchaiyudha, S, et al. “Antidiabetic Activity of Aloe Vera L. Juice. I. Clinical Trial in New Cases of Diabetes Mellitus.”Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23195077.
(17) Maenthaisong, R, et al. “The Efficacy of Aloe Vera Used for Burn Wound Healing: a Systematic Review.” Burns : Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17499928.
Svetlana Pasarić, A Brief History of Aloe Vera. http://alternativa-za-vas.com/en/index.php/clanak/article/a-brief-history-of-aloe-vera.
The Aloe Vera Story, 2017. http://www.lilyofthedesert.com/aloes-story/.